Over 119,000 tonnes of illegally gathered minerals have been seized by Mexican authorities in an attempt to stop large scale export operations of iron by a powerful drug cartel.
More than 400 federal agents, police and military personnel were involved in raids at 11 sites across the Port of Lazaro Cardenas, Michoacán on Monday.
Alfredo Castillo, federal government commissioner of Michoacán, said in an official statement that the raids involved seizure of unregistered minerals used as part of an illegal iron ore exporting business to China.
The Mexican Navy took over the port in November last year to combat the illegal operation, allegedly run by the infamous ‘Knights Templar’ drug cartel.
The state of Michoacán has been the centre of a bloody conflict between the cartel and heavily armed vigilantes.
Michoacán is also Mexico’s highest producer of iron ore, and the Port of Lazaro Cardenas draws in trade from a series of Chinese companies.
It is believed that the Knights Templar, who has already broadened out from drug trafficking to extortion, is hoping to expand their revenue into more legitimate businesses.
Over the course of the raid six Chinese citizens were detained, alongside the seizure of 124 heavy machines, including bulldozers.
The government will be carrying out tests to determine where the minerals were mined from in order to clamp down on the operation.